Today, in 2020, it’s easy to forget that the fountain pen used to be the primary writing tool for most people. As a result, all sorts of specialized fountain pens were needed because people didn’t have computers (they didn’t even have ballpoint pens!) so they were using fountain pens for all their particular needs — mathematics, music, drafting, so so forth.
Architect Nib Basics
Once you get a bit more into fountain pens you start to learn about all sorts of odd corners of the history of these writing instruments. One good example is the music nib, which was designed for writing music notation but now has larger fallen out of favor and is mainly used as a double-broad alternative. The architect nib is quite similar, but perhaps a bit more practical.
Architect nibs are sometimes known as Arabic or Hebrew ground nib. For practical purposes the terms are usually interchangeable, but some people may have differing thoughts the correct terminology or origins of the nib shape. Others contest that a Hebrew nib is something else entirely, a form of oblique nib, so we’ll stick with “architect nib” for now.
In order to form an architect nib’s 3D shape, the nib naturally comes to a point. This means that the angle you hold the pen matters. Of course the side-to-side angle matters, but the forward/back angle is surprisingly important as well. So if you write with the pen at a very shallow (low) angle it might not function as well as if you are right on the sweet spot, which will depend on how the nib was ground.
Writing With An Architect Nib
An architect nib is designed around a simple concept: it’s a fountain pen nib that is wide when working on the horizontal and narrow on the vertical. This means sideways strokes are thick and downward strokes are thin.
Sounds like any other sort of nib you know? That’s right, an architect nib is the opposite of a stub nib! A stub is has a wide, flat shape that causes the nib to write a thin line on the horizontal and a thick on the vertical.
The main appeal of an architect’s nib is not functional but rather aesthetic. The nib gives your writing a distinct look, like the writing of an architect obviously, but also it has a comic book look so long as you are printing your letters. Your writing will get a calligraphy look without the effort or hours of practice!
While the best comparison for an architect nib is a stub nib, the stub isn’t only more popular, it’s also much more forgiving to write with. Architect nibs aren’t necessarily difficult to use (like an italic can be) but they do require correct front-to-back angle and careful use of the front end of the writing tip, which tends to be pointed. Stub nibs are rounded and easier to adjust to. Stubs also have a simpler three dimensional shape, so keeping the pen at the correct angle isn’t a problem.
Where Do I Get An Architect Nib?
Architect fountain pen nibs come from three place: being ground by a nib professional, as a stand-alone nib, and included with new fountain pens.
If you want to have an architect nib custom ground in an existing pen or nib, you can send a fountain pen to a grindsmith, such as NibSmith.com or Nibgrinder.com. Expect to spend over $50 (after service fee and shipping) and to be without your pen for at least 6 weeks. Keep in mind that not every nib will be a good starting point for grinding an architect nib! You’ll generally want to start with a standard broad nib.
As a sub-section of having a nib ground for you, you could do the job yourself. Speaking from experience, this is a challenging job that will result in many sub-par nibs before you meet with any success. It’ll work in a pinch but after time and materials you might as well leave it to the pros.
A popular starting point for grinding an architect nib is the Twsbi Eco broad, which is affordable and well-suited to the job. A double broad nib will work as well.
If you want to buy an architect nib for your pen options will be limited. The Bobby architect nib is the most affordable and easy to find option. You can purchase the Bobby architect nib from Etsy or Ebay for about $10. It’s usually a steel nib that will work with any Lamy fountain pen or the Wing Sung 3008. Bobby also sells non-modular (that is to say standard style) #6 size architect nibs that will work with a Penbbs pen, JoWo compatible pens, and many other companies’ fountain pens.
Theoretically you could buy a new pen with a stock architect nib — just like you could easily do with a stub nib today — but right now options are very limited. In fact currently currently there seem to be no pen brands selling architect nibs.
What’s the difference between an architect nib vs. stub nib?
An architect nib is basically a stub nib that’s been turned 90 degrees. A stub nib is thin on the cross-stroke and thick on the downstroke while an architect nib is thick on the cross-stroke and thin on the downstroke.
What’s the difference between an architect nib and italic nib?
An architect nib is a nib that is (to simplify drastically) shaped like a “|” causing to write thin on the downstroke and thick on the cross-stroke. An italic nib is essentially a type of stub nib (shaped like “-“) that writes thick on the downstroke and thin in the cross-stroke. An italic nib will have sharper edges than a stub in an attempt to have crisper lines and a more formal look.
Were architect nibs used for architecture?
While this is likely true in some sense, it’s unclear how exactly the pens were used! We know that architect nibs are best for lettering (writing letters) in the distinctive style of an architect. If there was any specific purpose past the lettering we’ve been unable to find it.